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Ray v. McCollum

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 3, 2017

LANCEY DARNELL RAY, Petitioner,
v.
TRACY McCOLLUM, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER

          DAVID L. RUSSELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner, a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking a writ of habeas corpus. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Bernard Jones for preliminary review. On March 21, 2017, Judge Jones issued a Report and Recommendation wherein he recommended the Court deny the Petition. The matter is currently before the Court on Petitioner's timely objection to the Report and Recommendation, which gives rise to the Court's obligation to conduct a de novo review of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which Petitioner makes specific objection. Having conducted this de novo review, the Court finds as follows.

         Petitioner was convicted in the District Court of Comanche County on a single count of murder, the jury concluding that Petitioner, in administering what he considered appropriate discipline to his ten-year old stepson, caused injuries that resulted in Malik Ray's death. The District Court of Comanche County sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment. He contends that errors in the course of the trial rendered his conviction unconstitutional. The Magistrate Judge considered each of the claims and concluded they lacked merit under the relevant standard of review set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). That is, Petitioner is not entitled to relief on any claim addressed by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals unless its decision was contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented.

         Petitioner contends throughout his briefing that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals did not actually address the issues, because the orders affirming Petitioner's conviction and denying his request for post-conviction relief do not sufficiently explain the court's reasoning. As a result, he contends the Court should not apply AEDPA deference to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals' rejection of his various claims. As noted by Judge Jones in the Report and Recommendation, “[w]hen a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011). “As every Court of Appeals to consider the issue has recognized, determining whether a state court's decision resulted from an unreasonable legal or factual conclusion does not require that there be an opinion from the state court explaining the state court's reasoning.” Id. (citations omitted). This Court “owe[s] deference to the state court's result, even if its reasoning is not expressly stated.” Aycox v. Lytle, 196 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 1999).[1] With the standard in mind, the Court turns to Petitioner's objections to the Report and Recommendation.

         In Ground One Petitioner argues the medical examiner's opinion did not comply with the Federal Rules of Evidence nor the Oklahoma Rules of Evidence, which therefore denied him the equal protection of the laws. He argues:

Pertaining to the question of quantitative analysis or any kind of test to determine blood and fluid lost into tissues, the Reynolds Army Community Hospital Emergency Room Physician (RACH) (ER) testified, “once we gave blood, there's no way to know what it was after that point.” (Prelim. Hearing Tr. 33 lines 22-25; 34 lines 9-10).
Pertaining to the question of “were you told how much additional blood or how many additional fluids Malik was given as part of his treatment?” The Medical Examiner testified, “No Sir.” (Tr. III 72 Lines 14-16). The RACH ER Medical Records -Progress Notes reveals a total of 1400ccs of Normal Saline in addition to the two units (2x500 mls bags) of packed red blood cells were given - to a patient with “no lacerations or breaks in this skin” (Prelim H. Tr. 27 line 19). Nonetheless, the M.E. testified “those injuries [bruises] they were associated with blood loss in tissues. . .” (Tr. III 61 Lines 19-20).

Petition, p. 6. This issue was not raised on direct appeal, which Petitioner blames on the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The Report and Recommendation recommends denial of the claim because it lacks merit. In his objection Petitioner contends the Magistrate Judge misconstrues his claim and attempts to clarify same, arguing that the emergency room physician who first treated Malik committed malpractice which resulted in the improper administration of blood and saline, which resulted in the hemorrhaging identified by the Medical Examiner. Although Petitioner premised the argument in his Petition on the fact that Dr. Yacoub, the medical examiner, was not told about the administration of blood and fluids during his emergency treatment, his contention is apparently that Malik was suffering from neurogenic shock, not hypovolemic shock. Because his shock was not caused by insufficient blood to fill the circulatory system, Petitioner contends the blood and saline administered were detrimental to Malik's health.

         There is no trial testimony regarding the type of shock for which Malik was treated. The following testimony by the treating physician, however, supports the State's theory that Malik's death was the result of the discipline inflicted by Petitioner.

Q: How did Malik appear to you other than not having a heart rate, did you see any physical signs?
A: Well, there was extensive bruising throughout the body, both arms, both legs, his chest. There was a bruise on his forehead. And it was so severe that we were -we asked what had happened to him, was he hit by a car, and that was when the defendant, Mr. Ray, stated that he had whipped him.

Tr. Vol. I, p. 243-44.

Q: When you were putting the fluids into his shins, why were you doing that?
A: Well, the appearance of him with the multiple bruisings made him a trauma patient. My concern initially was I have to address what I believe is the cause for what's going on. And so we started infusing fluids to try to re-expand his blood volume. We gave him normal saline which is a fluid very similar to the electrolyte content of the body. And then as soon as it was available, we infused two units of red blood cells. Shortly after the two units of red blood cells were infused into him that he got a heartbeat. That was about, one document said 45, but I remember being more like 60 minutes into resuscitation.

Tr. Vol. I, p. 247-48.

Q: Well, why were you giving him blood?
A: Well, there was just so much bruising that when you looked at - - when you assess a patient and you try to figure out why they're in the state they're in, you take the visual cues and the historical information that's provided to you by the parents or in this case by the parents and any other people that are around to contribute to what's going on. And clearly this child had trauma. There was - - I said earlier that I've been in emergency medical services since 1979. Part of that time, I picked up bodies for the medical ...

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